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Coronavirus

Reps. Casten, Underwood discuss health, economic crisis

U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-IL, speaks during the dedication ceremony for the new Cary Metra Station along with Jim Derwinski (left), Metra CEO/Executive Director and Jack Franks, County Board Chairman on Wednesday, November 6th. Ryan Rayburn for Shaw Media
U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-IL, speaks during the dedication ceremony for the new Cary Metra Station along with Jim Derwinski (left), Metra CEO/Executive Director and Jack Franks, County Board Chairman on Wednesday, November 6th. Ryan Rayburn for Shaw Media

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U.S. Rep. Sean Casten emphasized Monday night that the nation’s current crisis is equal parts of health and economy.

“This is a public health crisis,” Casten said in an information session organized by Crystal Lake mayor Aaron Shepley. “It is also an economic crisis. At this point, it’s really hard to separate the chicken from the egg.”

Casten said a public health official he spoke with Monday likened sending people back to work too quickly to walking away from a fire when sparks were still present.

Shepley addressed the COVID-19 pandemic with Casten, U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood and Dr. Irfan Hafiz, an infectious disease specialist from Northwestern Medicine, on a video recorded by the Northwest Herald. It can be found at nwherald.com by going to the videos.

Shepley and Hafiz spoke about the local impacts of the stay-at-home order from Gov. JB Pritzker, which was extended to April 30. Hafiz said that nationwide trends indicate the number of local coronavirus cases will increase more before it subsides.

Casten and Underwood offered insight into the economic problems and how the government is trying to help.

Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act last week, a $2 trillion legislation to help businesses and individuals. The package ranges from providing payments to each households to loans and grants for businesses to health care and unemployment insurance.

“One of the most high-profile parts of this legislation is the direct cash payment,” Underwood said. “Another important piece of the bill deals with unemployment insurance for workers whose jobs are affected by the coronavirus. (The CARES Act) provided a $100 billion fund that is available to all types of hospitals and health care systems and providers most affected by COVID-19.”

The recovery rebate payments for taxpayers will depend on their income. Each adult will receive $1,200, with $2,400 for married joint filers. Individuals making $75,000 for singles and $112,500 for heads of households, or making $150,000 jointly, will receive $50 less for each $1,000 earned. It phases out entirely for single taxpayers at $99,000 and for joint taxpayers at $198,000.

Underwood, a health care advocate with a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees in nursing, feels the $100 billion fund can make an impact.

“This provides important resources for state and local governments and health care systems so they can meet the enormous financial challenges presented by the virus,” she said.

Casten pointed out that the CARES Act was the third bill related to COVID-19 that Congress has passed and predicts there will be more. The first two were aimed to help companies and small businesses. Casten suggested people contact the Small Business Association to apply for loans on the first two bills.

“We made some fairly significant expansions to the Small Business Association authority, so that this covers independent contractors, certain types of charitable organizations, recognizing those people are employing people as well, it’s not just small businesses,” Casten said.

Casten said that with health officials still a year away from a coronavirus vaccine, the U.S. cannot rush back to things the way they were.

“We cannot view this as if only we would sacrifice the economy we’d be fine on public healthy, or if only we’d sacrifice public health, we’d be fine on the economy,” Casten said. “These things are intimately linked. We are all in this together and we have to look out for each other together.”

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